Friday, May 31, 2013

Sox fall to Yankees

It's always rough to go into Yankee Stadium and lose the opening game of a series - especially when your ace faces off against their ace and theirs comes out on top. Sadly for the Red Sox, starter Jon Lester had flashes of brilliance where he sent Yankee after Yankee back to the dugout, but his few lapses were more than enough as CC Sabathia gave up just a single run in seven and a third innings.

Though the Sox kept things interesting in the ninth inning, with back-to-back hits by Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz with just one out, Mike Napoli struck out and then Stephen Drew grounded the ball back to Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who made the play to end the game. Dustin Pedroia scored the only run for the Red Sox in the seventh inning, and had three hits on the night, continuing to tear things up on the field despite the UCL tear in his left hand.

The Sox know as well as anyone that if you leave your scoring against the Yankees untl the end of the game, it's likely that your chances will be limited. Mariano Rivera is legendary for a reason, and he doesn't blow many save opportunities. Tonight was no exception, even though the Sox managed to bring the tying run to the plate.

The Red Sox will still maintain sole possession of first place even after losing tonight's game to the Yankees - but the Yanks do pick up a full game in the standings, trailing the Sox by just a single game with two more games to play in this weekend series. Tomorrow's game will see Felix Doubront facing off against Phil Hughes.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Another Red Sox record for Jacoby Ellsbury

Tonight's game was fun to watch. Franklin Morales gave up a pair of runs in the bottom of the first inning on a Delmon Young homer, but that would be the only stain on his night. Morales pitched five innings, earning himself the win, and the bullpen took things from there.

On the offensive side, Jacoby Ellsbury set a Boston Red Sox record by stealing five bases in a single game. It's somewhat surprising that such a feat, though impressive, is a record for a club that's been around as long as the Red Sox, but very rarely has speed been a major factor in assembling a roster to play at Fenway Park. Ellsbury also holds the Red Sox record for most bases stolen by a rookie (50 in 2008), and the Red Sox record for most bases stolen in a single season (70 in 2009).

It's never been a secret that Ellsbury's most reliable asset is his speed. Indeed, prior to the 2011 season, no one considered Ells a serious power threat at the plate, but he's always been respected and even feared once he reaches base. He's incredibly adept at distracting opposing pitchers, which allows anyone batting behind him the chance to see more pitches to hit, as his presence edging off of first makes them liable to make a mistake.

I'm personally of the opinion that if Ellsbury has a successful season this year, we might not be seeing him around much longer. Scott Boras is Ellsbury's agent, and he's notorious for pushing his clients to free agency and the biggest paycheck. With Ells' history of injury, it's unlikely that the Red Sox would be willing to offer the kind of contract length and value that he might command on the open market. I hope I'm wrong, and that we get to watch Ellsbury confound pitchers and catchers for years to come - but if this season is the last I intend to enjoy every last stolen base.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Two days, two saves for Papelbon

We watched Jonathan Papelbon close games for us for the better part of a decade in Boston. Better than any other team, the Red Sox know that it's difficult to get the big righty to blow a save opportunity. I certainly wouldn't go as far as saying that Paps is as bullet-proof as the great Mariano Rivera, but when you see him warming up in the opposing bullpen, it's a good bet that you won't be coming out of the game on top.

Tonight was no different (though the Sox kept things interesting), as the Phillies handed a 4-2 lead to Papelbon in the top of the ninth inning, and Paps delivered the save, despite walking Stephen Drew and opening the floodgates just a bit. David Ortiz pinch hit with one out and Drew on first, and flew out to right field before Jonny Gomes hit a single to put the tying run on base. Ellsbury then knocked a double down the left field line, scoring Drew and bringing Nava to the plate with the tying run just ninety feet away. Sadly for the Sox, and luckily for Papelbon, Nava grounded out to first base to end the inning and the game.

Hindsight being 20/20, an argument could certainly be made that letting Papelbon walk was one of the larger misteps made by Sox brass in recent years. Boston hasn't had a reliable (and reliably healthy) closer since we said goodbye to Papelbon, and in fact we've spent more money on the combined salaries of attempted replacements than Paps has made in two years in Philadelphia.

But pitchers' injuries are notoriously difficult to predict and prevent - especially when the pitcher in question, like Papelbon, relies heavily on velocity to make his pitches successful - and it's still very possible that the Phillies will turn out to have made an imprudent investment. If Paps has an unfortunate injury, the Red Sox look like geniuses for letting him walk and sparing themselves an expensive long term commitment. Obviously I wish nothing but the best for Paps going forward, with the exception of hoping for many blown saves against the Red Sox.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sox fall to Phils

Despite the way the game ended, Ryan Dempster was excellent today. My mother, the casual Red Sox fan, remarked that his name looked like "dumpster" (I'm sure he's never heard that one before) - but he pitched as well as you could expect tonight, giving up just two runs in seven full innings.

Unsurprisingly, the Sox bats couldn't get anything going tonight against Phillies' starter Cliff Lee. Indeed, when I saw who they had going for them tonight, I mentally prepared myself for the disappointment of the conclusion of the four-game winning streak. I would like to once again go on record thanking the Phillies for signing Lee back in the 2010-2011 offseason. Everyone figured he'd go to the Rangers or the Yankees, but he surprised us all and went to Philadelphia. If Lee had made a different choice, we'd be suffering at his hands much more frequently.

With Lee and Dempster performing well, that was an impressively quick game. Certainly it helped that the Sox and the Phils scored just four runs between them, but both Dempster and Lee worked at a brisk pace. Indeed, the two starters are exactly what MLB was hoping for with its rules on pitching speed.

It was weird to see Jonathan Papelbon pitching at Fenway Park again. The former Red Sox closer got the save for the Phillies, indicing David Ortiz into grounding out into the shift to end the game. I'm not sure why the boos seemed to be so loud - I don't begrudge Paps for following the money to his current team. The Sox weren't prepared to show him the money he was looking for, and you could argue that we've paid for that bit of thrift with all the closer woes we've had since the departure of #58.

Monday, May 27, 2013

My apologies to Alfredo Aceves

I'd like to take this moment to offer a sincere apology to Alfredo Aceves. In yesterday's post, I insinuated that his performance in tonight's game would be inferior to the start that we were supposed to have from Clay Buchholz - and I stand by that assertion, as Clay has been phenomenal this season. However, I also suggested that Aceves would be unable to pitch the Red Sox to a win, and I couldn't have been more wrong.

Aceves scattered seven hits over six innings, allowing just a single run from the Phillies (a homer) and striking out four. Despite my disparaging remarks about the unpredictable Aceves, he pitched well and made some pretty good plays defensively, as well as one pretty egregious error. The Red Sox bats got to Phillies' starter Tyler Cloyd early and often, tagging the righthander for six runs in just two and a third innings, and getting deep into the bullpen.

The visiting Phillies needed six pitchers to get through the game, putting some serious strain on the bullpen in the very first game of the series. Despite the fact that this series is just two games long, the Red Sox will head to Philadelphia for another two-game set directly after this one, and it bodes well that the Phillies' bullpen has already been seriously tested.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The hazards of fatherhood

On the list of reasons why a pitcher can have his start skipped, sleeping wrong because of his infant daughter might simultaneously be one of the cutest and most infuriating. Apparently Clay Buchholz slept through the night cradling his young daughter in his arms after his last start, and it irritated his shoulder enough to warrant a skipped start tomorrow.

Needless to say, that's wicked cute. I don't even want kids, and I still find dads with babies to be adorable - and though I have a hard time reconciling what I see of Buchholz on the field with someone who dotes on a baby, it's at least reassuring that there aren't any long term structural issues to worry about.

But I am somewhat annoyed - I mean, who wants to watch the enigmatic Alfredo Aceves try to get us a win in the first interleague game of season when we should be watching Buchholz go for his eighth win? The only silver lining is that I'm in a dead heat with this week's fantasy baseball opponent, and he has Buchholz on his roster.

Since Phillies' starter Tyler Cloyd has a 2.70 ERA to Aceves 8.20, tomorrow's game might be a rough one. But that's the beauty of baseball: on any given day, any pitcher can beat any other pitcher, and any team can beat any other team - and the only way to know for sure is to watch.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Wins all around!

Today was an awesome day to be rooting for Boston, as the Red Sox took their second game in a row from the Indians and the Bruins took Game 5 from the Rangers, eliminating New York and propelling themselves into the Easter Conference Finals.

Job Lester went seven innings but didn't earn the win, because even though he managed eight strikeouts he also gave up four earned runs. Instead, Junichi Tazawa got to be the pitcher of record, as he was pitchign in the eighth when the Red Sox rallied for four runs. Andrew Bailey, hopefully off of the disabled list for good now, earned his sixth save of the season.

The Red Sox can clinch a series win tomorrow, as they guaranteed at least a split with today's win. Felix Doubront will look to get his fourth win, and lower his ERA - it's currently closer to six than five.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Lackey leads the way

After getting absolutely demolished yesterday, the Red Sox defeated the Indians in a decisive manner tonight in a nine-inning downpour at Fenway Park. John Lackey was excellent, going seven innings, scattering just two hits and three walks and allowing just a single run.

The Sox offense had his back, punishing old friend Justin Masterson to the tune of five runs in six innings, and then beating up on the bullpen just a bit for good measure. Every starter had at least one hit except Stephen Drew, and Jose Iglesias played his first major league game at third base with no issues.

Beyond being impressive from the rubber, John Lackey had a great defensive play in the game, coming off the mound and sliding a few feet on his knees to throw out the runner at first base. I picked up Lackey with the very last pick in my fantasy league, and he's making me look much more savvy than I really am. Sadly I won't get any points for his excellent defense, but the eight strikeouts and low ERA are working for me.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Rough night for Boston sports

On a night when the New York Rangers took their first game of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series from the Bruins, the Red Sox got absolutely clobbered by the Indians at Fenway Park. Sure, the Bruins are still up in the series 3-1, but if any fanbase can tell you about how comeback from 3-0 is possible, it's Boston.

I still think the Bruins will take the series, despite what people like to say about possible momentum shifts. As for the Red Sox, the only silver lining to tonight's defeat is that it means good things for former Sox skipper Terry Francona, now the Indians manager.

Like most Red Sox fans, I have a lot of fond memories of Tito, and I wish him nothing but good - except when his new team is playing the Red Sox. So far this year, it seems like Francona's Indians can do no wrong, as they boast a 26-19 record, good for first place in the AL Central.

I guess if the Red Sox had to return from a three-city roadtrip to a beating like this one, I guess I'm glad that one of my favorite non-Red Sox baseball personalities gets to benefit from it.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Unbeaten Buchholz

Since the White Sox have revealed themselves as Jon Lester's kryptonite, and the Red Sox nearly got no-hit last night (even as often-struggling Felix Doubront had a surprisingly solid night), we turn to Clay Buchholz to avoid getting swept. The Red Sox have been swept only once this season, against the first place Rangers in Texas, and nobody wants to repeat that experience - especially at the hands of the fourth place, under .500 White Sox.

After Lester's less-than-impressive performance on Monday, Buchholz is the last unbeaten pitcher in the Red Sox rotation, with a current record of 6-0. It's been rocky at times for Buchholz, not really because of anything he's done wrong, but because some of the people watching can't believe he's so good.

But thankfully, all of the ridiculous cheating accusations have faded away, and anyone whose opinion matters in baseball will tell you that Buchholz isn't doctoring the ball, he's just mowing down batters with sheer talent. Hopefully he'll keep that going tonight, because it's one thing to get swept by the Rangers, and quite another to suffer the same fate at the hands of the White Sox.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Jerry Remy: Playgirl model

If any of you are regulars over at Baseball Prospectus, you've probably seen today's Baseball ProGUESTus feature, Michael Clair's "Dollar Sign on the Glistening Muscle: Scouting Ballplayers in 1980s Playgirl."

That's right, in the golden decade of the 1980s, Playgirl magazine did a spread of Major Leaguers, and two of Red Sox Nation's favorite NESN personalities were part of it.

None other than Jerry Remy posed in a bathing suit for Playgirl, in all of his 80s glory. You're welcome. If you feel the need to own this piece of history (and see Dennis Eckersley in a similar pose) the July 1984 issue can be yours for under $18, and in addition to Remy and Eckersley, you'll get to see George Brett, Rickey Henderson, Steve Sax, Joel Youngblood, Mike Heath, Tom O'Malley, and more.

Lester stumbles in Chicago

For a few wonderful moments in the top of the seventh inning, it looked like the Red Sox bats were going to bail out Jon Lester. With the Red Sox trailing 6-2 to the White Sox, Will Middlebrooks came to the plate with nobody out and two men on base, and doubled to left field scoring David Ortiz and Mike Napoli.

Sadly, four runs were all the Red Sox could muster, and it wasn't enough on a night when Jon Lester didn't have it. It's something of a pattern for Lester against Chicago's AL team, as the lefty is just 4-5 in his career with a 5.43 ERA in ten starts - much below his career stats against all teams, 91-49 with a 3.73 ERA.

It's actually reassuring that Lester has a pattern of mediocrity against the White Sox - I'd much rather have him predictably struggle against this one team than have last night's performance be a harbinger of things to come. A one-time poor start that can be explained is preferable to a mysterious downward spiral any day of the week, and though Lester's chokefest seriously damaged my fantasy stats, I'm confident that he'll make it up to me in his next outing.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Red Sox sweep Twins

After a four-game sweep of the Twins, the Red Sox head to Chicago to face the White Sox. We were going through a bit of a rough patch for a while, but in the last week the Red Sox have won five of six games, boosting their season record to 27-17, just a half game behind the Yankees in the AL East.

Yesterday's game was particularly strange, as it spanned about six hours in order to accomodate a three hour rain delay after the top of the seventh inning. John Lackey got the win, going six innings and allowing just one hit - the run he gave up was unearned.

Three hours after Lackey tossed his final pitch, Andrew Miller took the mound for the seventh inning, before handing the ball off to Koji Uehara for the eighth, and then Junichi Tazawa for the ninth. The three gave up a combined four hits, one walk, and earned six strikeouts in the final three innings.

On the offensive side of things, Dustin Pedroia hit his second home run of the season, and Will Middlebrooks hit his eighth, leading the Sox to a 5-1 win. It's certainly nice to be back on track, and the  White Sox shouldn't provide too much of a stumbling block as the Red Sox try to keep their momentum going.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Is David Ortiz even real?

Last night, David Ortiz hit two homeruns, to bring his season total to seven, tied with Mike Napoli and Will Middlebrooks for most on the Red Sox. The crazy thing is that Big Papi has played just 24 games so far this season, while Middlebrooks and Napoli have both been on the field since Opening Day.

Ortiz's six RBIs in last night's contest brought his season total to 29. It's easy to forget (it seems like Papi has been a Red Sox forever), but David Ortiz started his career as a Twin, playing in Minnesota for six seasons before joining the Red Sox in 2003 - and the rest is history.

Since he's been to Boston, Ortiz has absolutely raked against his former team, hitting .332 with fifteen homers and 43 RBIs in 53 games in the last decade against the Twins. Before last night's game, Ortiz was interviewed on NESN, and when he was asked if he makes any extra effort when playing the Twins, as if to prove to them what they're missing. He gave his trademarked smile, and said, "I think they already know."

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Koji Uehara with the save

Koji Uehara is way too much fun. Every time Uehara gets out of an inning, he requests (and receives) high fives from everybody on the team, coaches, players, training staff, and translators. Last night, when Uehara earned his first save of the season in extra innings, he didn't disappoint and the high fiving was just as enthusiastic as ever.

The Red Sox are Uehara's third major league team, as he made his debut for the Orioles in 2009, and after spending two seasons plus in Baltimore, he ended up pitching for the Texas Rangers in 2011 and 2012. He was one of the free agents the Sox signed this offseason with little fanfare, expecting him to be a one-inning per outing guy, which is pretty much what we've seen.

With Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan both on the roster, no one considered the possibility that Uehara might close even a single game - indeed, even with both of them on the disabled list, John Farrell had said that Junichi Tazawa would have the job. But Tazawa pitched two innings and got the win on Thursday, so Uehara got the call last night in the bottom of the tenth inning - and he certainly came through.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Middlebrooks comes through

When Will Middlebrooks came to the plate with two outs in the top of the ninth inning, the Red Sox were down by two runs with the bases loaded. Middlebrooks didn't have much to show for his earlier plate appearances, as he was 0-for-2 with a walk up to that point. But none of that mattered, because with two strikes on him, Middlebrooks laid off a high fastball from Rays closer Fernando Rodney, took the next offering (a changeup), and lined it into right field.

Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, and Daniel Nava scored on Middlebrooks' double, and the Red Sox took a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth. With Andrew Bailey still on the disabled list, Junichi Tazawa came in to try to lock things down, and he successfully got the save, allowing the Red Sox to take the rubber match of the series.

Even Felix Doubront had a pretty solid outing - though he did not get the win, he managed to go five plus innings and give up just two earned runs, even wiggling out of a tough situation when he loaded the bases in the first inning, somehow getting out untagged. The bullpen pulled out a piecemeal effort, as Clayton Mortensen managed just a third of an inning and gave up a run, but Andrew Miller, Craig Breslow, and Tazawa pitched the rest of the game cleanly.

It was certainly a feel-good win, as the homegrown fan-favorite Middlebrooks provided the offense needed, and the Red Sox strung two wins together for the first time since their last series in Baltimore two weeks ago. Tomorrow the Sox head to Minnesota for a three game set, and hopefully they can bring some momentum with them to Target Field, as they only managed to take one game out of three from the Twins last week at Fenway. Clay Buchholz (6-0) will get the start for the Sox, against Vance Worley (1-4).

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Lester and #DrewCrew lead the charge

Jon Lester came through tonight, getting the win in a much needed Red Sox victory over the Tampa Bay Rays. Meanwhile, David Price is killing my fantasy team, but since I also have Lester on the roster, I guess it all balances out.

The oft-maligned Stephen Drew was a key part of the victory, as he crushed a grand slam in the third inning. The Sox would score eight runs total in the third, batting through their entire order in an explosion of offensive production - and ousting Price from the game early on. Will Middlebrooks added a solo homer in the top of the eight inning.

Lester went seven innings and allowed two earned runs on eight hits, no walks, and recorded five strikeouts. It would be great for the Red Sox if Felix Doubront could keep this momentum going tomorrow, especially since both the Yankees and the Orioles lost this evening (to the Mariners and the Padres, respectively).

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sox struggle at the Trop

Despite getting off to a great start when David Ortiz crushed a three run homer int he top of the first inning, the Red Sox lost their third straight game and suffered their ninth loss in the last eleven games at Tropicana Field this evening. John Lackey looked great for the first couple of innings, and then crumbled in the fourth.

The Rays scored all five of their runs in the fourth inning - two on a botched popup that got lost in the lights and catwalks of the Trop and dropped between Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli. Somehow, that play was scored as a hit, and those two go-ahead runs would be more than enough for the Rays.

Remarkably, the Red Sox are still third in the AL East standings, which speaks more to the incredible success they had in April than anything they have attempted to accomplish since. John Lackey looked pretty fantastic before his fourth inning struggle - just as he looked solid in his last start before his own throwing error signalled the beginning of the end in a similar meltdown.

Jon Lester will get the start tomorrow for the Sox against David Price. Lester is 5-0 with a 2.73 ERA this season, including a complete game shutout (just one hit away from a perfect game) in his last outing, while David Price has been underperforming thus far. With an ERA creeping up near five, and just a single win to his name, Price is not exactly the fearsome competitor he's been in years past. Still, lately the Red Sox have found all kinds of ways to lose, so I won't take the outcome of tomorrow's game for granted.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Bruins take game seven!

If you've ever read this blog before, you know I'm a baseball fan above all else. I love baseball. I am literally one of those people who eat, sleep, and breathe baseball (as in, I have Red Sox tableware, Red Sox bedding, and if I had asthma, I would get a Red Sox inhaler). But I also enjoy other sports, and naturally I'm a fan of all the Boston teams.

I always forget how much I love watching hockey until I'm actually watching hockey. I rarely tune in for a regular season Bruins game, instead making lame excuses about how it's hard to watch on TV (kind of true) and how much better it is in person (absolutely true). But I do watch the playoffs, and I'm not someone to miss a game seven in any sport.

I never even knew the basic rules of ice hockey until I went away for high school, and somehow found myself living on an isolated Maine campus surrounded by hockey nuts. It was pointless to resist their influence, and my first year I watched every single home game, boys and girls, JV and varsity - I don't do things halfway. I quickly came to love the sport, but now, five years removed from my high school graduation, I often forget how wonderful watching hockey can be.

Tonight's game seven reminded me, as exciting games will. Patrice Bergeron scored that overtime goal and I leapt from my chair in exuberance. There's a certain kind of exhilaration that comes with sudden death overtime that you just can't capture with extra innings - hopefully the rest of the Bruins playoff run can have the success of this evening's win without the strain on my nerves.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day mauling

The pitching woes continued for the Red Sox today, as Ryan Dempster gave up six runs in five innings, before giving way to three different relievers - only one of whom managed to pitch a clean outing. The worst of the lot was Andrew Miller, who only managed to record a single out while allowing three runs to score.

Jose De La Torre gave up a pair of runs in a single inning, while Clayton Mortensen was slightly better, giving up just one run in 1.2 innings, and only Craig Breslow managed to record a 0.00 ERA for the day while completing a single inning. The bullpen, heralded as a great strength of this team at the outset of the season, has become a liability.

Certainly, a large part of the bullpen's struggle has been injury-related, as the opening day closer is now out for the season, and his replacement is on the disabled list. But the big difference between the Red Sox incredible April and their so-far dismal May has been in the pitching - they managed to score four times today, and the score wasn't even close.

One of the things that we all looked forward to with the hiring of John Farrell was his expertise with the Red Sox pithing staff. He's certainly gotten Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester back on track, but his magic touch seems to be missing when it comes to the rest of the rotation and the bullpen. Pitching coach Juan Nieves has his work cut out for him lately, but if Farrell has faith in him, so do I.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Closer woes

Just one day after Jon Lester came one batter away from a perfect game to stop a losing streak, the Red Sox lost a heartbreaker in the ninth inning to the Toronto Blue Jays. It's time to address the elephant in the clubhouse: the Red Sox are without a closer, yet again.

With Joel Hanrahan out for the season, and Andrew Bailey reporting that he'll be unable to return from the DL as soon as he's eligible, John Farrell has designated Junichi Tazawa as the stopgap closer. This afternoon, the stopgap closer blew a save after the Sox had rallied to take the lead.

The Extra Bases Blog over at has a really great breakdown of the Red Sox closer struggles since they let Jonathan Papelbon back - so far, the financial investment in his replacements has made it seem like it would have been a more responsible decision to just pay him.  Personally, I have a lot of confidence in Andrew Bailey (in fact, I picked him up on both of my fantasy teams when the Sox first declared him the closer), but he can't seem to stay healthy. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Sad loss on a soggy night

The Red Sox seem determined to reverse the success they had in April. Last month it seemed like everything that could go right, went right - so far in May it seems like everything that can go wrong, has gone wrong. After getting swept by the Rangers in Texas, the Red Sox returned home to lose three out of four to the lowly Twins.

Last night's game was particularly painful, as the Sox were in the lead, and the newly repaired John Lackey was looking solid - until he made a throwing error on a play that should have had him out of the inning, but instead led to four unearned runs and an eventual Red Sox loss. [In terms of scoring, and on a mostly unrelated note, I think that if it's a pitcher's error, they should be earned runs.]

If Jon Lester can't stop this skid, nobody can, and since the Twins are departing in favor of the Blue Jays, against whom the Red Sox are 4-2 this season, this is as good a time as any to turn things around. Lester will be going up against Ramon Ortiz, who so far in 2013 claims an ERA of 5.40, more than two full runs higher than Lester's.

The Blue Jays were slated to be a powerhouse in the AL East, while the Red Sox were supposed to be stragglers - so far, that's not the case. Given some of the early season injuries to key Blue Jays players, it's unlikely that Toronto will take the division - but there's certainly time for the Red Sox to fall back to the bottom. They need to pull themselves out of the funk they seem to be in, and tonight is an excellent time to start.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Save us, John Lackey!

The Red Sox got absolutely shellacked tonight, after getting their butts handed to them last night. They're given up sixteen runs in two days. In fact, it's an incredible testament to how amazing they were in April that they're still sharing first place with the Orioles after losing five of their last six games.

The Sox have John Lackey on the mound tomorrow, and while his last start was less than impressive, the one before was solid. He should be able to pitch slightly deeper into the game than in his last start, as the extra limits on his pitch count due to the injury have been lifted.

I know Lackey isn't terribly popular in Red Sox Nation, although I think he's improved from being persona non grata to being sort of an afterthought. But I really think Lackey has the potential to do great things for this team. He used to be the number one starter for the Angels, and came in third in Cy Young voting in 2007 with a 19-9 record.

I'm not trying to say that Lackey's about to challenge for a Cy Young Award, or have his first 20-game season, but he's tossed over 200 innings five times in his career, and I really think that he can be an integral part of this rotation. Here's hoping he starts to prove me right tomorrow by stopping this downward spiral.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

#DrewCrew comes through

Stephen Drew has had a rough start to the season, as he suffered a concussion in spring training, and was able to get just a fraction of the at-bats a player typically relies upon before starting the season.  Because of this stumbling block, he's struggled pretty seriously at the plate so far in 2013.

In addition to the actual problems Drew's been having, fan perception of him was already clouded because of the fact that Stephen Drew is JD Drew's younger brother. JD, of course, was one of the least popular everyday players of the last few years, as fans considered him overpaid, overrated, and fragile. I'll always stick up for JD - after all, it's not his fault Theo wanted to throw so much money his way - and I'll certainly always judge Stephen by his own merits, not those of his brother.

Last night, Stephen Drew was an offensive hero, going 4-for-5 while hitting a game-tying homerun in the seventh inning, and hitting a walkoff RBI double off the Green Monster in the bottom of the eleventh inning. Drew has finally gotten his batting average over .200 (currently at .225), and his defense has been solid throughout the young season.

So if anyone wasn't convinced before, I hope last night's performance has made you eager to jump on the #DrewCrew bandwagon, because there's plenty of room for everyone. But be warned - if you do decide to jump on the Stephen Drew bandwagon, you might find yourself sitting next to JD.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Just a bump in the road

Getting swept is always rough, but watching as a former member of your own club (here's looking at you, Adrian Beltre) hits a walkoff single against you to complete the sweep makes the normally depressing scenario even worse. But as far as being swept goes, I don't feel that bad today.

For one thing, even after dropping three straight to the Rangers, the Red Sox are still in possession of the best record in baseball. Sure, there are other teams who can also make that claim, but the fact is that the Sox are still first in the AL East, and now have a record identical to the Rangers (and Cardinals).

Add to this fact the knowledge that the Red Sox are headed back to the friendly confines of Fenway Park for seven games, four against the Twins (13-14), and three against the Blue Jays, who, despite high expectations, are 11-21. Meanwhile, the Sox are 11-5 at home, so while the sweep was certainly unpleasant, I feel good about the immediate future.

Sure, it's disheartening that the Red Sox come out of this series seemingly unable to "beat the best," a legitimate litmus test for long term success. But all is not lost - we'll get a chance to reclaim our pride from the Rangers this time next month, and I don't think for a moment that we'll be swept a second time. In fact, I bet we'll be bringing the brooms next time around.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Can you believe it?

Even after last night's loss to the Rangers, the Red Sox still have two more wins than any other team in baseball. A month into the season, the Sox are in first place in the AL East, two-and-a-half games up on the second place Yankees. Especially after the misery of last season, this start has been wonderful for Red Sox fan - especially those of us who live in the city and can take advantage of low ticket prices.

I don't for a minute expect tickets to stay affordable for long, especially if the Red Sox continue anywhere close to the pace they're on. And despite the stuggles from Felix Doubront that we've been seeing, the core of the pitching staff is as solid as can be - led by Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester.

Though the crazy production we've been seeing from David Ortiz (.465 batting average in eleven games) is certainly unsustainable, I wouldn't be surprised to see him hit well over .300 for the season. Mike Napoli is taking to first base like a fish to water, and in his first season where he doesn't spend a ton of time crouching behind the plate, his offensive numbers - and the Red Sox - are the beneficiaries.

You never really know how a season will shake out - in 2011, we had a team proclaimed the "greatest ever" during spring training, and then suffered through the worst collapse in history in September. This year, expectations were tempered, to say the least, but the Sox have the best record in baseball so far. I'll leave you with one final thought: the last time the Red Sox had the best April record was 2007 - and before that, 2004.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Buchholz brushes off accusations

Clay Buchholz does not react to ridiculous accusations about cheating the way I would react - it's just one of many differences between us, a list that includes height, gender, age, and music taste, among various other things. I would have thrown an absolute fit if some has-been like Dirk Hayhurst, he of two major league seasons and a career 5.72 ERA, had the audacity to accuse me of cheating.

Not Buchholz. No, he answered all the stupid questions about touching his own hair and arms patiently, with just a touch of snark: "Buchholz laughed it off and said if he had thrown two innings, opposed to the seven scoreless frames of two-hit ball he hurled, that this probably wouldn't be a story."

John Farrell was less casual about it. Though the manager was told about the baseless accusations secondhand, he wasted no time in categorically denying them. As the first pitcher in the majors this season to six wins, Buchholz is clearly doing something right - and it's just as clear that he isn't getting any help from "foreign substances."

Jerry Remy was even more indignant than Farrell, ranting about the absurdity of it all through a full inning: "I faced Gaylord Perry for god's sake. I think I know what a spitball looks like!"

I think it's pretty obvious why the jealous Dirk Hayhurst though Clay was working with a "foreign substance," and it's because Bucholz DOES have access to something that Hayhurst never had - and that unfamiliar asset is called TALENT.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Buchholz earns sixth win

The Red Sox offense absolutely exploded tonight for ten runs, but starter Clay Buchholz didn't need most of them, going seven innings without giving up a run. Indeed, Buchholz was just as sharp tonight as Jon Lester was wobbly yesterday, allowing just five base runners and earning eight strikeouts.

Buchholz also became the first pitcher in the majors to six wins, after he became the first to five wins in his last outing. As I said last night, it's really always about the pitching, and Buchholz is on a roll - he's fun to watch, especially when he works as efficiently as he did tonight.